Château Montebello

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Fairmont Le Château Montebello
Montebello-Fairmont Le château Montebello.jpg
The Château in winter
General information
Location Montebello, Quebec, Canada
Opening 1 July 1930
Owner Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System
Management Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
Other information
Number of rooms 211
Website
www.fairmont.com/montebello

The Fairmont Le Château Montebello or simply Château Montebello is a hotel and resort complex in Montebello, Quebec, Canada.[1] The setting for the retreat is 26,305 hectares (65,000 acres) of forested wildlife sanctuary and 70 lakes on the shore of the Ottawa River, between Ottawa and Montreal.[2]

Construction[edit]

In the late 1920s, Harold M. Saddlemire, a Swiss-American entrepreneur, acquired a site along the Ottawa River, on land that formerly formed part of the Seigneurial system of New France.[3]

The hotel is situated on one of the last surviving land grants made by 17th-century French kings to early settlers of what was then La Nouvelle France.[4]

Papineau Mansion, grounds of Le Chateau Montebello

François de Laval, the first Bishop of Quebec, purchased the property in 1674 from the French East India Company. The Quebec Seminary inherited it from Laval. In 1801, the land was sold to the family of Joseph Papineau. His son, Louis-Joseph Papineau, built a turreted stone mansion, the Manoir Papineau, in typically French style. This grand house, which was designated a National Historic Site of Canada,[5] functions as a museum which is open in the summer. It is the only structure on the property which doesn't conform to the log cabin motif of the resort.[4]

Saddlemire envisioned a private wilderness retreat for business and political leaders. He initially called this project "Lucerne-in-Quebec;" subsequently came to be known as the Seigniory Club. Despite the 1929 stockmarket crash, work on the planned wilderness retreat began as planned in early 1930.[3]

Advertisement for Lucerne in Quebec
Château Montebello in 1930

The economic uncertainty did not delay the project, as it did so many others, due perhaps to the fact that the presidents of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the National Bank of Canada, the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank of Canada respectively, not to mention the Premier of Quebec, were all club directors. A special spur from the nearby CPR line had to be built to allow for the transport of red cedar logs and other supplies to the site. The Scandinavian log construction project was supervised by Finnish master-builder, Victor Nymark and construction manager Harold Landry Furst. Construction and woodworking teams worked in overlapping shifts around the clock using electric lighting at night.[3] In this era, the church did not approve of working on the Sabbath; but by coincidence, the local curé was dispatched on an all-expenses paid trip to Rome for two months while the work proceeded apace.[6]

An army of 3500 laborers ensured that the project could reach completion in only four months.[3] The club's grand opening was held on 1 July 1930. Three days after opening, a magnificent costume ball was held, attended by the Governor General of Canada and other such luminaries.[6]

Château Montebello's rotunda in 1930, with the six-sided fireplace
Fireplace, Christmas time, 2009

The centerpiece of the new log-château was a hexagonal rotunda, containing a six-sided stone fireplace that rose more than 20 metres (66 ft) to the roof, soaring rafters featuring logs 18 metres (60 ft) long, and two mezzanines that completely encircled the rotunda. The newly constructed buildings on the site contained 10,000 logs, 500,000 hand-slit cedar roof shakes and 166 kilometres of wooden moulding. The club was acclaimed for its architecture and architectural details.

The log walls are painted black on the outside, but the interiors display the natural beauty of the wood which was all shipped by rail from British Columbia.[4]

When Margaret Thatcher first saw Château Montebello, she was reported to have observed that it must be the world's largest "log cabin,"[2] but she was neither the first nor the last to react in that manner.[4]

The current array of 211 guest rooms, including 14 suites, are organized in the four wings which fan out from the rotunda, with additional wings for the dining room and the ballroom.[7] There are 17 rooms and a total of 17,000 square feet (1,600 m2) of meeting space available for business purposes.[8]

Today the hotel's amenities encompass such features an indoor and outdoor pool, an 18-hole golf course and 26 kilometres of cross-country ski trails.

History[edit]

Across the span of its history, the resort has welcomed guests such as Governors General and Prime Ministers, Crown Prince Akihito of Japan, Harry S. Truman, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford.[9]

Papineau Chapel, grounds of Le Chateau Montebello

Seigniory Club[edit]

The exclusive private retreat of the Seigniory Club took its name from the French land grant system. "Seigniory" is the anglicized version of the French seigneurie.[4] The club was only open to an elite membership for its first 40 years of operation.[3] Among Canadian members during this period was former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson; and non-Canadian members included Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, Prince Ranier and Princess Grace of Monaco. Among the many titled visitors was the Prince of Wales who revisited when he became the Duke of Windsor.[2]

US President Harry Truman's visit to Canada in June 1947 incorporated a trip to the Seigniory Club retreat.[10] Truman had "expressed the desire to fish for his first Canadian trout during his visit to the club."[11]

Canadian Pacific Hotels, 1970-1999[edit]

Canadian Pacific Hotels purchased the club in 1970 and opened it to the public as a resort.[3] In this period, it was renamed the Château Montebello.[2]

In 1995, the American National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded a special membership to the Château Montebello, one of only two Canadian hotels so honoured. The other Canadian member is the Empress Hotel of Victoria, British Columbia, which was also a Canadian Pacific property.[2]

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, 1999-2006[edit]

In 1999, Canadian Pacific Hotels purchased Fairmont Hotels, and the merged companies were reconfigured as Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.[12] The Toronto-based private company, now controlled by Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and Colony Capital of Los Angeles, continues to manage Montebello; but the property itself was purchased in 2006 by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS).[13]

OMERS, 2006-present[edit]

When Fairmont sold Le Château Montebello to the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), that real estate transaction effectively repatriated the prominent hotel into Canadian hands.[13] The list of international figures visiting the resort continues to grow; for example, US President George W. Bush spent time at Montebello in 2007.[11]

International events[edit]

Montebello has hosted the world's leaders throughout its history.

G7 summit[edit]

G7 leaders at the Château Montebello in 1981

In 1981, the Château Montebello hosted the 7th G7 summit; and leaders such as Pierre Trudeau, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and François Mitterrand were guests along with the aides and security staffs traveling with these national leaders.[14]

NATO summit[edit]

In 1983, the NATO chiefs of state met at Montebello.[2]

Trilateral summit[edit]

The leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States came together for a trilateral summit in 2007. The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) conference at the Château Montebello brought together Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and US President George W. Bush.[3]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Chateau Montebello web site.
  2. ^ a b c d e f MacDonald, John. "Montebello: A log cabin with class," CARP News (Canadian Association of Retired Persons). May 1997.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Fairmont Chateau Montebellow web site: hotel history.
  4. ^ a b c d e Lewis, Paul. "Log Cabin Luxury," New York Times. 23 September 1990.
  5. ^ Manoir Papineau. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  6. ^ a b Mounsey, Josie. "A Winter's Tale: 'We were transported to a Christmas past'," The Independent (London). November 16, 2002.
  7. ^ OttawaPlus: Château Montebello.
  8. ^ Road & Travel Magazine: Chateau Montebello
  9. ^ History, Montebello Website
  10. ^ Mendleson, Rachel. "Welcome to Canada, Mr. President," MacCleans. February 17, 2009.
  11. ^ a b "Mr. Obama comes to Ottawa," The Ottawa Citizen. February 15, 2009.
  12. ^ Fairmont: history.
  13. ^ a b Constantineau, Bruce. "Pension plan buys 7 Fairmont hotels for about $1.5b," Vancouver Sun. October 3, 2006.
  14. ^ Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA): Summit Meetings in the Past.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°38′42″N 74°57′00″W / 45.645°N 74.95°W / 45.645; -74.95